UCB forecasts earnings growth after 2015 beat

BRUSSELS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Belgian pharmaceutical group UCB forecast further expansion of revenue and profit this year after its three newer drugs drove earnings by more than expected in 2016.

The company, which specialises in the central nervous system and immunology, said it expected revenue next year to between 4.0 and 4.1 billion euros, recurring core profit (EBITDA) of 0.97-1.01 billion euros and core earnings per share of 2.90-3.20 euros.

Core profit last year rose by 35 percent to 821 million euros ($907.9 million), above the average 805 million expected in a Reuters poll.

The company has previously forecast 2015 revenue of about 3.75 billion euros, REBITDA of about 800 million euros and core earnings per share of between 2.10 and 2.20 euros.

Last year, combined sales of Cimzia to treat rheumatoid arthritis and bowel disorder Crohn’s, Vimpat for epilepsy and Neupro, a patch for Parkinson’s disease, rose 38 percent to 2.02 billion euros.

Even sales of older epilepsy drug Keppra, now facing generic competition, increased by 11 percent.

The company also increased its dividend by 4 percent to 1.10 euros from 1.06 euros for 2014. ($1 = 0.9042 euros) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek)